When your computer crashes or phone freezes, don’t be so quick to blame the manufacturer. Cosmic rays — or rather the electrically charged particles they generate — may be your real foe.
While harmless to living organisms, a small number of these particles have enough energy to interfere with the operation of the microelectronic circuitry in our personal devices. It’s called a single-event upset or SEU.
During an SEU, particles alter an individual bit of data stored in a chip’s memory. Consequences can be as trivial as altering a single pixel in a photograph or as serious as bringing down a passenger jet.